Steps to Build Your IoT Prototype

The Internet of Things or IoT has taken over every major facet of our lives. From research labs, the path-breaking technology has moved out and found a place in our homes, kitchens, offices, gardens, and roads. 

Shortly, connected devices are poised to become more accessible and affordable than ever before. Needless to say, their demand is going to surpass all limits, and businesses dealing in the niche can literally mint money riding the wave. So, if you haven’t yet jumped on to the IoT bandwagon, now’s a good time to do so and understand how this disruptive technology works.

Just like all software solutions, IoT projects also start with prototyping. Your IoT prototype outlines all the required parameters of your IoT deployment. It binds together all the elements of your project- device, user, cloud, and enterprise. But creating a perfect prototype is easier said than done.

In this post, we will be discussing the main steps involved in IoT prototyping. But first, let’s understand how IoT prototyping is challenging.

How Is IoT Prototyping Unique and Challenging?

Prototyping for an IoT product will be different than for other software. When your team first forays into IoT, here are some things they might find disconcerting:

The prototype will not be production-ready: When you prototype for non-IoT solutions, whatever you include in their prototypes reflect in the final products as well. This is not the same with IoT products. The hardware and software in their prototypes and final products may vary widely. Moreover, there are many third-party integrations that are not included in prototypes.

Few ready-to-use components: Unlike other software prototypes, IoT ones don’t have the advantage of readymade components. Your development team will have to start from scratch, building components one by one. Feedback and testing cycles will be longer and usage instructions will need to be more in-depth since users are not very familiar with connected devices as yet.

Software occupies center-stage: IoT hardware takes time to master. But if your software facilitates user onboarding, the user experience can be seamless and smooth. In order to overcome friction, IoT prototypes need to lay special emphasis on user experience.

Products should be high on usability: Sticking a chip into a device and connecting to the web does not comprise IoT. A real IoT product delivers value from the get-go, even if it doesn’t look too pretty. It is made after tracking consumer behavior and action. It doesn’t overpromise and underdeliver, rather vice versa.

5 Steps to Create Your First IoT Prototype

Building your first IoT prototype can be challenging and exciting at the same time. A typical prototyping process consists of four major stages. Let’s take a deeper look at them.

Stage 1: Identify the Goals of Your IoT Prototype

When prototyping an IoT product, it’s essential to drill down into its objectives first. 

For instance, if you anticipate glitches in how your device will interact with real users, tackle that first. Keep it at the focal point of your development process and plan your hardware, software, and other requirements around it.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • What will the IoT prototype achieve?
  • What kinds of data do you need to capture for the prototype?
  • Where will the captured data be logged?
  • Where will you put all the UI elements (wireframing)?
  • What kind of discussions do you want to have with your developer teams?

By keeping your end goals in sight, your project will get direction and momentum. Plus, it makes sense to work on these assumptions right away rather than when you’re well into the process and down thousands of dollars already.

Stage 2: Research on IoT Hardware and Components

Once you have identified the pain points that your product will address, it’s time to dig into the hardware components and technologies that will help you achieve the end goal. 

Hardware for prototyping will be very different from production hardware. 

How, you wonder?

Prototyping hardware will be:

  • Flexible: It will be breadboard-friendly.
  • Affordable: It will be low-cost.
  • Modular: It will be compatible with multiple hardware ecosystems.
  • Usable: It can be set up in a short time and comes with built-in tools.
  • Simplistic: It can easily be used by beginners.

As against this, production hardware is more reliable, manufacture-ready, and advanced.

While deciding on your IoT prototype’s hardware, find answers to questions like:

  • Does the hardware have a consistent firmware, platform, infrastructure, and development tools?
  • Is there sufficient resources and domain support around your chosen hardware?
  • How easy are the components to deploy? Can you get your prototype up and running with the components or do you have to go hunting for installation guides and experts?

Be aware that there is a lot of experimentation involved in this step of hardware selection. 

It’s likely that you will create a solution, test it, and end up scrapping it multiple times. Sometimes, it might seem akin to searching for a needle in a haystack, but pursue till you zero into the perfect strategies for your product.

For example, if your IoT product is Bluetooth-based and requires many connections to transfer data simultaneously, you may need to experiment with different Bluetooth devices to find the best connection. 

Front-end and backend functionalities may need to be synced over and over again through different technologies until everything works in tandem. If you give up after a few fails in the initial stages, you may never find your ideal technology and solution.

Stage 3: Design and Acquire the IoT Components

And now, we come to the most exciting stage of prototyping – product creation. We recommend that you start building early so as to spot discrepancies and fix bugs without affecting your delivery schedule. 

There are four basic components of an IoT prototype:

  1. Devices/Sensors 

Sensors and devices collect data from the product’s surroundings. These sensors come in varying degrees of complexity- from basic temperature monitors to complicated video feeds. You need to either acquire or design your own sensors for your IoT product.

  1. Connectivity

There needs to be a channel for the senor-collected data to be transported to the cloud infrastructure of IoT devices. These networks can be cellular, satellite, Bluetooth, WiFi, Wide Area Networks (WAN), or any other type. Whatever be your network choice, ensure that it is leakproof and secure.

  1. Data Processor

Once data reaches the cloud, it needs to be processed to generate some output. The data processing can range from simple (checking temperature range on your smart AC) to complex (scanning the area for unknown intruders). 

Sometimes, the user’s intervention is required for the data processing to complete. That’s where the next IoT component, user interface, comes into the picture.

  1. User Interface

There needs to be an interface through which users can interact with the IoT system. The user interface, users can check into their devices, provide inputs, and extract output. The UI can be a simple touch screen or a complex video feed, depending on the device and requirements.

While designing/acquiring IoT components, keep your end goals in sight. Ensure that the hardware and software components are compatible with each other. During the prototyping, it’s okay to encounter some glitches and failed iterations. Don’t lose heart and keep persevering until you have a full, working prototype in your hands.

Stage 4: Define Data Streams

To take advantage of the massive volumes of live data collected by your IoT device, you need to set up secure data streams. 

There are a number of caveats to defying data streams:

  1.  They should be secure and tamper-proof.
  2. They should be able to collect and tramt millions of data points simultaneously.
  3. They should be equipped to acquire, manipulate, collate, combine, and discard data as programmed.

One of the biggest challenges you’re likely to face is the distributed nature of data. Your data streams will have to collect and assimilate data from varied data sources – sensors, cloud, user interface, and others. 

If your data streams don’t configure data lineage accurately, data processing will take a hit. To do so, you can define data clusters using Apache frameworks. If your data streams are more complex, I recommend you use Kafka or Spark Streaming. 

Stage 5: Integrate with App

Integrating IoT with mobile apps is the last but most critical step of prototype development. Mobile IoT solutions can have unidirectional or bi-directional data transmission/communication between users and the device in question. Whatever be your development model, ensure that the integration is smooth and seamless.

IoT-powered smartphone apps can be of many kinds, ranging from wearable devices (like smartwatches and heat rate monitors), industrial plant monitors (to keep tabs on plant vitals), agro apps (to regulate irrigation rates, etc.) or traffic moderators (for decongesting traffic, assisted parking, etc.).

After you’ve got your IoT product up and running, the next step is to fix the bugs. These errors might be software-related like broken features or code issues, or hardware-related like patchy connectivity or skewed interface. 

Whatever the issues are, take the time to recode, retest, and eliminate each and every bug. Ensure the product holds up to scrutiny by experts and real users alike. If there is a flaw in the core design and coding, you may need to go back to the drawing board and start from scratch. 

Sounds overwhelming?

It can be. Coders and developers often like to share a joke that this stage typically called “the last 20%” ends up consuming 80% of the entire bandwidth. 

It’s fair to assume that unexpected twists will crop up during this troubleshooting stage. But since you’re so close to the final prototype, you need to keep the momentum going even if there are a few roadblocks. At the end, you should have a bug-free, full-featured prototype that meets its objectives.

Ready to Build Your IoT Prototype?

Prototyping is non-negotiable when it comes to IoT products. Clearly-defined goals, robust technologies, and rigorous testing can ease prototyping to a great degree. The approach described above can be your compass through the entire process.

Do you have any questions about IoT or prototyping? Leave them in the comments below. For more helpful and insightful information in this space, stay tuned in.

To know more about iView Labs, kindly log on to our website www.iviewlabs.com and to get in touch with us with your queries and needs just write us an email on info@iviewlabs.com and sales@iviewlabs.com.

Download the latest portfolio to see our work.

What Are the Key Digitization & Automation Practices in Financial Services?

As the world gets used to the “new normal” induced by COVID-19, most consumer services have taken the digital route. Among them, financial services have been the top adopters of digitization. With people relying more and more on online banking apps and portals, financial institutions have no choice but to digitize their processes end to end.

While changed consumer behaviour presents a huge business opportunity to the financial sector, it is not devoid of challenges. In an ideal state, the growing demand for digital products, applications, and services would mean increased revenue and market share for the traditional finance industry. 

But the truth is far from it. 

While core financial services have been digitized, there are many back- and mid-end services that are still stuck in a rut. From account opening to loan approval, there are many processes that start off at digital touchpoints but culminate with manual, pen-and-paper processing.

This way, the digital chain in financial services gets disrupted. The “right here, right now” advantage of digitization loses significance when consumers have to wait for facetime with financial advisors. 

To be fair, banks and FIs are working overtime to meet evolved customer demands and needs. In this post, we will talk about financial services that have been the focus area of digitization and automation.

Let’s get started.

1. Commercial and Small-Scale Business Lending

All over the world, governments are offering stimulus packages to businesses affected by the economic slowdown. Many businesses have had to revamp their infrastructure and systems to make way for the changing ecosystem. They need funds promptly without too much paperwork. That’s where digitized financial institutions can expedite the lending process.

For instance, the Office of Management and Budget in the US has allowed e-signatures in the loan application step. They have, in fact, taken out official orders to encourage staff to use e-signatures as much as possible to simplify processes.

At the same time, there is a spurt in the number of financial frauds where miscreants assume fake identities and siphon funds as loans. To avoid these pitfalls, a double line of defence is recommended.  Double authentication in the form of facial recognition with document verification can fail-proof your systems.

2. Consumer Lending

There is a global recession in the making. Household budgets are in the red after layoffs and pay cuts. That’s why global banks like Goldman Sachs have allowed their consumer borrowers to delay their loan instalments.

According to American Banker, “Many banks are also working to identify emergency borrowing needs – and using digital platforms to provide advice and process loan applications.” Despite all these empathetic steps, financial pressure on solopreneurs, workers, and small businesses is going to mount. The number of personal loans, debt consolidation loans, and bridge loans are multiplying.

Digital-savvy lenders and financiers are reprioritizing their processes by focusing on mobile channels. In this area, two new developments are visible on the horizon – mobile e-signatures and mobile shielding. Since many consumers have started banking and borrowing through phones and tablets, mobile-first lending can make their transactions seamless and painless.

Mobile e-signature, as the name implies, creates a digital trail for tracking signatures while maintaining compliance. Mobile shielding covers due diligence to protect banking applications from tampering, instructions, and breaches. By these two advancements, banks and FIs can ensure data security and compliance without disrupting the user experience.

3. Account Opening

Even in this crisis period, banks have reported a 300% increase in account-opening numbers. The increment is primarily because of increased loan applicants. 

To accommodate the heightened demand for new accounts, banks and FIs have transitioned to online mechanisms. According to American Banker, Citi’s commercial clients have “strongly gravitated toward digital onboarding.” 

While techno-savvy banks and FIs are making hay while the sun shines, their technically-challenged peers are in for serious troubles. According to a Litico survey from mid-March 2020, 82% of people are hesitant to visit bank branches during the outbreak. However, the same survey reveals that 63% are more inclined to try an app. 

This is good news for FIs that already own mobile apps or are in the process of building one. They are poised to earn a competitive advantage and increase their market share. 

In a recent ISMG banking industry survey, 68% of FI respondents have identified digital account opening as a priority initiative for their institution this year. To make room for greater customer volumes, they have expanded budgets for tech stacks like ID verification, machine learning, and digital signature.

To prevent fraudsters from intercepting security, banks and FIs are exploring safeguards like two-factor authentication and biometric scanning. Using these next-generation methods of identity verification, these institutions are able to offer mobile banking to customers without compromising on their security.

4. Account Maintenance

Customers need to maintain or update their account from time to time. Priorly, they would have to visit their bank to create fixed deposits or add nominees to their accounts. Most procedures were incomplete without hard copy documents and signatures.

But with banks opening for limited hours and people hesitant to visit banks for health concerns or restrictions, digital services have come in handy. With e-forms and digital ID verifications, banks and FIs are well-equipped to serve customers in the comfort of their homes.

Fraud prevention in the form of account takeovers has emerged as the biggest threat during this time. In this kind of cyber attack, unauthorized users permeate bank security and infiltrate accounts. Once there, they can easily siphon funds, change account settings, and block payments, much like the real owner. 

Fraud prevention platforms have cropped up to safeguard FIs against such threats. They closely monitor suspicious account activities and take necessary preventive action timely. 

Ready to Go Digital?

Apart from the above use cases, digitization is also being abundantly applied to employee-facing processes. From payroll to attendance, everything is recorded and tracked without human intervention. 

The best part is that these systems can be tailored to suit your organization’s specific needs. Another great thing is that they can be scaled up with ease to accommodate more data and user volume. This can help you save a lot of time, effort, and resources, keeping the quality and output intact.

Still, there’s a lot that needs to be done with regards to personalization of financial services. Currently, only 52% of banks offer personalized services in digital formats. This is a huge turn-off for discerning customers with high standards of customer service and support.

Another area where digitized services are falling short is the speed of transactions. Presently, too many regulatory stipulations are  bogging down the speed at which financial transactions come through. For click-happy customers, slow speed is a reason enough to abandon the transaction altogether.

However, there’s a lot going on in digitization and financial services are bound to catch up with other more digital-savvy business areas soon.

Can you think of other applications of digitization in financial services? Share your thoughts in the comments below. And state tuned for more cutting-edge information.

To know more about iView Labs, kindly log on to our website www.iviewlabs.com and to get in touch with us with your queries and needs just write us an email on info@iviewlabs.com and sales@iviewlabs.com.

Download the latest portfolio to see our work.

5 Tips for Easy User Onboarding

So you built a software application successfully? Great, that’s good news. But are you confident that you can convert sign-ups into active users? Are you sure your app can onboard users smoothly, convince them of its unique value proposition (UVP), and get them to start using it from the get-go?

Before you answer those questions, take a look at the stats on user onboarding:

  • 25% of apps are abandoned by users after the first use itself. 
  • 77% of people uninstall an app within 72 hours of installing it.

We don’t want to sound negative but the truth is that user onboarding is a sore point with app vendors. They often find it challenging to retain and turn first-time users into loyal users. 

That’s why, in this post, we will explain 5 effective tips for user onboarding, with relevant examples from super-successful apps.

Let’s get started.

How Can You Onboard Users Successfully: 5 Tips

Here are the best practices of user onboarding that every app developer should follow:

  1. Keep Things Simple

In a Clutch survey of 501 app users, 72% of respondents said that a quick and simple onboarding process plays an important role in their decision to keep using the program. 

Keep the onboarding steps to a minimum and ensure that they can be completed within a minute. Ask for personal contact details (mentioning reasons why they are needed) and show only essential UI elements in the first use. Try not to overwhelm new users by asking them for unnecessary permissions. 

For instance, a movie-booking app needs only location-access and SMS-sending permission. They should skip requesting permissions for contacts or camera. Those can come at later stages once users are comfortable and confident of the app.

Example: WhatsApp

WhatsApp’s user base is unbeatable. According to their CEO, Jan Koum, one of the biggest reasons for the app’s success is its simplistic onboarding process.

The app self-detects the SMS with the verification code that is sent to first-time users. This means users need not leave the app interface and dig through their inbox for the SMS.

  1. Allow Skipping Steps

Many tech-savvy users don’t like to be hand-held through the onboarding steps. They like to explore their new installs themselves. To such users, give the option to skip whole or part of the onboarding process. There is no burning need to take them through the grand tour when they are impatient to try the app for themselves.

Vevo, the popular music-streaming app, found that logins increased by 10% when they included the “Skip” button in their app. If you’re not clear about your users’ preferences, conduct usability testing with different variants of the onboarding flow. Then, deploy the variant that works best for your users.

Example: Slack

Slack puts users in the driver’s seat by giving them a “Skip the Tour” option in every screen of the onboarding stage. Users can move to the main interface as soon as they feel confident enough to start using the app. 

  1. Ask for Permission

It’s a good practice to ask permission before sending push notifications to new users. 

The Clutch survey we cited earlier found that 4 out of 5 users like to know why an app needs to know their personal details, payment preferences, or device permissions. In fact, this small step can improve opt-in rates in a big way.

Example: Letgo

Letgo is a reputable portal for buyers and sellers of used items. Instead of accessing users’ inboxes directly, they send notifications to them every time a customer expresses interest in their listed items. In this way, users feel they are in control of their app engagement.

  1. Demonstrate Value Instantly

People install your apps for a reason. They have certain expectations from your app. If the app is unable to fulfill these expectations promptly, customers churn quickly.

So, think of an efficient way to demonstrate value to new on boarders: set up a features carousel, product walkthrough, or new-user registration. Just focus on showing what benefits uses derive from the app.

Example: Venmo

Venmo is a payment wallet with social-sharing capabilities. It lets users share their payment histories with friends. To reinforce their app’s credibility, on the first screen itself, Venmo shows social proof about how popular and reliable their platform is. This inspires confidence from new users who are apprehensive about sharing their payment info with a new app.

  1. Provide Incentive for First Conversions

Encourage users to keep using your apps, give them incentives to convert for the first time. 

For example, you can provide exclusive features or promo codes to users who fill out the registration form or make their first purchase. Other incentives can be loyalty points or in-app credit.

Example: UberEats

Uber’s food-delivery brand, UberEats, make the onboarding process really frictionless for new users. 

As soon as users register, they are welcomed with a coupon for a $20 discount on the first order. If that’s not enough to entice users to order, a list of nearby restaurants displays on multiple screens.

Conclusion

We can not help but emphasize how critical your user onboarding process is. If you’re able to onboard users painlessly, take it as a big win. With the app space getting crowded and apps competing for user attention, your onboarding process can help you get a competitive edge.

So, think up an efficient process to onboard new users. A/B test your onboarding models to find the best fit for your users and apps. Don’t hesitate to steal your competitors’ onboarding model if it’s good. You need a proven onboarding strategy to get your app up and running in no time.

Do you have any questions about any of the above strategies? Drop them in the comments and we’ll answer soon. Watch this space for more revelations about app development and onboarding.

To know more about iView Labs, kindly log on to our website www.iviewlabs.com and to get in touch with us with your queries and needs just write us an email on info@iviewlabs.com and sales@iviewlabs.com.

Download the latest portfolio to see our work.

Ten Secrets to Make Your Product Development a Success

Success doesn’t come from guesswork, innovation, or diligence. It is a combination of all this, plus more. As we unraveled from Neilson’s Consumer 360 Study that is collated by industry trailblazers and innovators. Their disruptive ideas about consumer behavior and product development will be an eye opener for most of us.

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Continue reading Ten Secrets to Make Your Product Development a Success

Is Your Product Really Solving a Problem?

Have you ever sat and wondered why Uber and Urban Clap are such a roaring success? Why a simplistic app like Freshmenu took the world by storm? What all these products have in common is that they aim to solve real problems and pain points of consumers. Because at the end of the day, customers don’t care about your product, they are just concerned with how your product can solve THEIR problems. This is the secret that smart marketers and product designers realize early on, rather than after failing with many “innovative” products that look very “cool” but are of little interest to their target audience!

Now, let’s dive deep into the real question at hand today – Is your product really solving a problem?

Is Your Product Really Solving a Problem

Continue reading Is Your Product Really Solving a Problem?